CORK minor football selector James McCarthy was proud to play his part in helping the young Rebels capture All-Ireland championship glory this year following an absence of 19 years.
The talented minor footballers defeated Galway to capture the Tom Markam Cup following a dramatic All-Ireland final. James was delighted with their great achievement.
“It was a remarkable win. It was a brilliant achievement to win the All-Ireland final. It is only sinking in now. They are a very talented team. They were a pleasure to work with,” revealed the Castlehaven club man.
James who works as a GDA with the Cork County Board throughout West Cork and Beara has enjoyed a very distinguished coaching career. He has led his beloved Castlehaven club to senior county final success, while he has also been part of a number of very successful Cork underage football teams. Landing the recent All-Ireland minor football title was a great highlight for the modest coach.
“Winning an All-Ireland final in Croke Park is special. The atmosphere on the day was electric. The facilities are unreal. There was a full house when extra-time was being played which ensured an unreal buzz. It is a dream to help coach a team to All-Ireland success in Croke Park. You are in a bubble.”
A goal from inspirational captain Conor Corbett salvaged a dramatic draw for the Cork minors in injury time, which ensured extra-time was required. Cork’s greater fitness and natural talent shone through in extra-time as they cruised to victory.
“It was a topsy-turvy game. We didn’t play well in the first half. Our reaction to the late Galway goal was brilliant. That showed the character and maturity of our team.
“We took over in extra-time. Our fitness was key. We always believed in our lads.
“Galway struggled in the closing stages of their semi-final win against Kerry. We knew our lads had the legs to do it and our bench were stronger. Our goal at the start of extra-time was also crucial.
“The introduction of Ryan O’Donovan was also big. We always save him to come in and produce the goods. He is a very good player.
“He would be starting on most other teams.”
The nature of their All-Ireland final triumph could not have been forecast given the big defeat they suffered against Kerry in the first round of the Munster football championship this year. James always believed his charges would recover and enjoy a successful season.
“There has been a pile of work put into this group of players going back the last few years by a series of coaches who all deserve great credit. They have come through the various development squads and regional teams which shows the process is working.
“Without the squads, fellas in previous years from a smaller club or rural area could have slipped through the net. We have a couple of players who have no minor teams to play for.
“The net was cast out far and wide. We had great representation from throughout the county which is always healthy. Young people from these clubs will have new heroes to idolise.
“We took them on and guided them over the line. They are great players and lovely lads. They are great ambassadors for their various clubs and families. They are always keen to take on board new ideas, they are keen to improve and develop as footballers.”
James is hopeful the current Cork minor footballers will continue to improve and progress as footballers. The experienced coach is understandably cautious with regards their potential.
“All-Ireland final success in this grade was long overdue. 19 years is a long time to be waiting for All-Ireland glory. Hopefully now the players will keep developing for both their clubs and the various Cork teams.
“We have to be careful however that we don’t put too much pressure on the players as they are so young. They are young lads and they need space and time. We have to look after and bring them along bit by bit.”
The coaching guru loved working as part of Bobbie O’Dwyer’s management team. All the coaches worked brilliantly together and they each brought their own individual coaching talents to the set-up.
“Bobbie assembled a great set-up. The background staff all worked brilliantly together. There was a great unity amongst the players and management team. His man-management skills are second to none. Mick Hannon and Ollie O’Sullivan are great characters.
“Bringing in James Masters was a great idea. His experience and knowledge was great. He worked very well with the forwards, giving advice on free-taking.
“He was a great link with the last team who won the Tom Markham Cup. Our back-up team were outstanding. They all played a big role in our success.”
McCarthy lavished great praise on the Cork minor captain Conor Corbett whose last-minute goal ensured extra-time was required.
“He was a great leader. He is a special talent. He is a very nice young man. He is very humble. Hopefully he will enjoy a very good career. We have to be careful with him and nurture him along however.
“It was a proud moment for him to bring the Tom Markham Cup home to his beloved Clyda Rovers Club. They have played a big role in his development. The future is bright for Cork football.”